I’m tired of long sentences and parentheses about church

(part of the Creed series)

Every time I say “church”, I feel like I have to explain.

By church, I never mean “church service” or “worship service” or “worship gathering” or “Sunday morning service” or even Saturday evening service. Those events are important. They allow us to listen, to sing together louder than we can sing alone, to have our private spiritual space invaded. They force us (or give us the opportunity) to give greetings and hugs, to share tears and frustrations, to be confronted with people that we don’t like and may have treated us rudely when we visited their store this week, but who are just as much in need of grace and healing as we are. But going to church services isn’t church.

By church, I never mean “church building” or “school building we are renting until we can get a real church” or “don’t run in the building because it is God’s house” I never mean “the  place that spent too much on glass and chandeliers when people are starving” or “the place that ignores the fact that God created us with eyes and some of us with an aesthetic sense that is affronted.”

Places have value. Humans are created in time and space. Spaces take on meaning for us. Having a building makes it possible to share it for blood drives and immunizations and kids basketball and weddings and funerals and a week’s worth of activity. But going to the building isn’t church.

When I say “I believe in the holy Church“, I mean the church being made holy. I mean the people who have decided that they, imperfect as they are, will follow Jesus and will do it in community, as imperfect as it is, with the rest of the people who have decided that they will follow Jesus.

8 thoughts on “I’m tired of long sentences and parentheses about church

  1. Rich Dixon

    Someone once said that the difference between a friend and a lover is that when you tell a friend “I love you” he knows precisely what you mean.

    “Church” is a word like “love”–so overused in so many different contexts that it becomes meaningless and then yaou always have to explain it.

    Maybe we need a different word, like “agape.”


    1. Jon Swanson

      well said. Though I’m pretty sure that agape would need an explanation as well. When put into the idea of a love feast, there are all kinds of bad connotations, and were at the time.

      Churches, groups of people, are using all kinds of ways to avoid using the word “church”. And there are a number of people talking about missional communities, where the focus is on the doing life together part.


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